Friday, June 10, 2011

GFCF: I Never Met a Diet I Couldn't Cheat On

Most parents of autistic kids try the gluten-free/casein-free (GFCF) diet at some point in their journey.  It's probably the one alternative-ish, biomed thing that everyone seems to try at least once, if only for a few days...before they cave after finding out that it does not include Cheerios or some other gluten-full food that represents the only flippin' thing that their kid eats.

We started Audrey on it at 18 months and were religious about for nearly three years.  During that time, we even tried the Specific Carbohydrate (SCD) diet, the even more restrictive Soul-Crushing Diet that I blogged about HERE.

Gluten and casein incarnate 
Eventually I just got sick of it.  As Audrey got older, she became more aware of all of the delicious glutenous carbs that she was missing out on.  I hated her sticking out any more than she already did in social situations, as I had to wrestle her to the ground at parties or holiday get-togethers when she reached for a cookie or bread roll.  Also, we relocated back to my hometown of Chicago, and, I'll have to Google this to confirm, but I'm pretty sure the GFCF diet is against the law here.

The main thing was that as I started cheating and reintroducing gluten and casein, I noticed absolutely nothing in terms of any detrimental effects or regressions.  The Holy Trinity of autism side effects for me are 1) Behavior, 2) Sleep, and 3) Poop.  If none of those head south in any noticeable way, then as far as I'm concerned it's "pass the pierogi".

The other important point is that Audrey has a really, really good diet.  We buy organic, eat out only occasionally, and never have fast food.  Don't say, don't even think, that pizza is fast food or I will be forced to cut out your tongue and show it what real pizza tastes like.

One huge benefit of gutting out the grueling years on the diets is that Audrey is an awesome vegetable eater.  She gloms down broccoli and green beans, and even (with some bribing reinforcement) will eat kale, dandelion greens, and bok choy.

Going out for pizza is something that we do infrequently enough that it is considered a special treat.  And one that I think is richly deserved given her generally good eating habits.  Still, my husband is a great advocate for the GFCF diet, so we keep our visits to the pizza parlor on the DL and try not to flaunt them.

Until Audrey says something like "I should not talk about eating pizza and ice cream.  It's a secret.  OOOOH...I DO NOT LIKE IT'S A SECRET!" right in front of my husband.  Other subtle clues?  Notes like this from school...


  1. I'm with you on this one. Both my kids are by default GFCF. They both have allergies to wheat, milk, eggs, fish, nuts, and peanuts. At one point Pudding was also allergic to carrots, green beans, beef, rice and potatoes. When we took ALL those foods out (new level of hell) we saw an immediate response in her sleep, which led to better behaviour, but it didn't last.

    I'm glad we tried it, but as soon as the allergist will allow us, we'll be back on all those foods. It didn't work for us, and it does make things more difficult socially, especially with young kids who like to share. Great for those who see results, but can't say we have.

  2. HAHAA!! You're so busted. When we were transitioning out of the diet.. those were the same signs i looked for. Behavior, sleep and poop. Nothing ever changed. If anything, he was more compliant because he wasn't hearing us scream as we're running across the room to yank something out of his mouth that he wasn't supposed to have. I never told ANYONE when I was leaving the diet. I NEEDED the info from those that didn't know.. to judge the behaviors. My husband is opposite of yours. I led the the whole diet campaign here. He just "did as he was told" lol

  3. I waffle (yes, pun intended) on implemented a stricter diet for my Little Miss, but unfortunately, the only major food groups in our home include hot dogs (not good for anyone), chicken McNuggets, string cheese, and an assortment of crackers -- ranging from Cheezits to Teddy Grahms. That's about it. If I switched to something else, well... Little Miss would never eat. Feeding sensitivities are a bitch, huh?

  4. I heard some great things about it but we never bothered. He was diagnosed with infantile autism which I'm told is genetic so...

  5. I think organic vegetables and dandelion greens are also illegal in Chicago. Your stay in California must have corrupted you.

  6. The husband is always the last to know.

  7. You guys are sooooo lucky. My kid gets so much as a morsel of gluten or dairy and he falls apart in every way. I'm glad not all kids on the spectrum need this is a major pain.

  8. We tried the GFCF diet for several months. On the diet we saw a deterioration in behavior, mostly due to not being able to eat any of the things he likes. Plus we spent an ass ton of money on all the stuff.

    Peace was restored when we finally broke down and brought back the beloved dinosaur shaped, all natural chicken nuggets.

    Sounds like your hubs needs some pizza therapy!!

  9. Now I really, really want Chicago pizza. If I lived there and wasn't allowed to eat it, I'd be tempted to move.

  10. The only way I can get my kids to eat veggies is by hiding them in pizza or smoothies. At least I make the pizza from scratch, so that's got to be healthier, right?

    I've never had real Chicago pizza :( There are some excellent "Chicago pizza" places here but I know from my experience with NY pizza that it can't really compare. Someday...

  11. Pass the pierogi? I thought you were above blogging about Weinergate?

    Btw, NY crushes Chicago in the pizza battle.

  12. We haven't done the diet. I have no interest in doing the diet. We almost had to when they thought
    Ben had celiac, but thankfully we he's just small by nature and not b/c of delicious carbs. K has SUCH behavior/emotional/anxiety issues as it is, if I cut out the good food, *I* would end up in the loony bin. I have thought about trying the woo stuff, but we spend too much money on actual therapy at this point to afford the fancy treatments.

  13. They just will not keep that secret will they? Love how Audrey spilled that she did not like that it was a secret! My kid - does not get the concept of a secret - he has no vault.

    My child too, does not need the GFCF diet and would not benefit from it - thank goodness - because it is a difficult one to do. Why are you denying Audrey the candy, mom? Get that girl to the candy store!!

  14. The GFCF diet works for some/not for others. Personally, I find it too difficult to get my already fussy eater to eat gluten free (my husband - not the kids). We've gone for the natural/preservative free way. It seems to work for us.

  15. @Spectrummy Mummy: Wow. You are left with a pretty short list of allowable foods.

    @Rhonda: I like men who do as they're told!

    @Mom2LittleMiss: I think that is a problem for lots of families...taking an already limited diet and restricting it even more. Love the pun...I used the term "gut it out" over on Facebook in reference to how hard the diets are...hardeehar!

    @Amanda: Some people claim to see benefits even then, but everyone is different.

    @Yuji: The vegetable habit definitely originated in CA. But it is possible to find them in Chicago if you look hard enough. True story.

    @AMR: It is sooo hard, but it would be a great motivation to be on it if your kid reacts like yours...there's just no choice.

    @Flannery: He needs a lot more than pizza therapy.

    @Christy: True dat.

    @JennieB: I'm sure that you know Zachary's...definitely as close as it gets out there.

    @Big Daddy: Spoken like a true partisan who passes judgement on something he knows nothing about.

    Jen: Yeah, I've always argued that the therapies should take precedent.

    Karen V: That note was just full of incriminating evidence wasn't it? There just so happens to be a bulk candy store right outside of Rainforest Cafe that we *may* have been to a time or five.

    @Angel G: Sounds like our husbands are polar opposites :)

  16. I will say that as a sped teacher who loved to include cooking as a classroom activity, working with all of the allergies and then the GFCF diets made for some creative recepies. Thankfully all of my kids loved fruit and would actually work for it as a reward. I personally could never do the GFCF diet as my entire diet conssts basically of gluten.

  17. When I heard Temple Grandin speak, she advocated for trying the GF/CF diet. She felt if there was no big change within a month, then stop it! We never tried it with my daughter. We had such immediately luck with behavior therapy that we didn't feel the need.

  18. OMG, if you're living in Chicago, you HAVE to eat pizza! Besides NYC, that's THEE best place for Chicago pizza!

  19. Hey there Lynn! I eventually let go of the GFCF diet several years ago for the same reason. Billy had no issues with allergies and his behavior/academic progress did not seem affected at all when these were re-introduced. But I have no regrets; it was worth a shot!

    Glad Audrey can enjoy her pizza now!

  20. I've just had to start a gluten free diet and and painfully. Also? I just totally snarfed down some real bread. Which means I'll be in the 7th level of hell tomorrow. Restricting your kids has got to be so difficult, I give you so much credit, and I'm beyond impressed. The determination. The watchfulness. B/c it's in freaking EVERYTHING.

  21. I hated our brief stint with the GFCF diet. Of course, given my pants size, I've never met a diet I liked.

  22. I am also very jealous..

    I remember the first time Brian got a handful of Doritos after being on the diet. The kid ran in a circle for ten minutes straight, eyes bugging out of his head, and screaming.

    Maybe he was just excited about tasting something that didn't taste like cardboard.

  23. Where in the world does she pick up these terrible habits?

  24. I'm pretty sure all diets are illegal in Chicago and it's greater metro area.

  25. We did gfcf too
    Increasingly find it difficult to do and we cheat lik crazy
    And see no changes in behavior
    Frankly gfcf feels like being on a diet without losing any weight ( which I personally am also doing )
    Luckily DH is on the same page

  26. OMG... you had me cracking up at wrestling your child at the birthday parties for grabbing something made with gluten. I was there! LOL.